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Early Annals of Capitular Masonry

Early Annals of Capitular Masonry.


Voice of Masonry - 1880

The facts concerning the introduction of the Capitular system into
this country are a good deal obscure. That the Royal Arch degree
has been conferred in the cities on the seaboard for more than a
century past there can now be little doubt. Appealing to the fullest
information I have been able to discover, I write this historical

St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter, No. 1, in Boston, can proudly
boast a most illustrious history. This Royal Arch Lodge - then
so-called - James Brown, Master, met in that city August 28th,
1769. This is also the date of its Charter, but of what authoritative
source derived is not stated, though of course the document itself
explains. Thomas Waterman, Grand High Priest of Massachusetts,
some time since kindly put me in possession of many particulars
concerning this interesting old chapter. For a long period degrees
were conferred therein extraneous to the Capitular system as we
now have it, as will be observed by an extract from the second
recorded meeting of "a Royal Arch Lodge," held August 28th,
1769: "The petition of Brother William Dams coming before the
lodge, begging to have and receive the parts belonging to a Royal
Arch Mason, which being read was received and he unanimously
voted in, and was accordingly made by receiving the four steps,
that of an Excellent, Super-Excellent, Royal Arch and Knight

May 14th, 1770, Joseph Warren, who was Grand Master of
Masons for the continent of America in the ante-revolutionary
period, by a commission dated March 7th, 1772, from the Earl of
Dumfries, as Grand Master of Scotland, was made a Royal Arch
Mason in St. Andrew's Lodge. This was in the Mason's Hall in the
Green Dragon Tavern, on Union Street, although subsequently the
chapter met at Mason's Hall, north side of the Market House
(Faneuil Hall Market.)

The degree of Mark Master was not connected with the other
chapter degrees until November 28th, 1793. For the first time,
November 15th, 1797, the designation St. Andrew's Royal Arch
Chapter appears on the record. No mention of the degree of Knight
Templar is to be found after the meeting of December 3d, 1794,
With these historic antecedents, St. Andrew's has steadily pursued
its course, holding a stated convocation once a month, and has now
a membership of about 500. Of course, in the long list of
distinguished officers in the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of
Massachusetts, very many have been selected from the Past High
Priests of St. Andrew's Chapter, all of whom have been ardent
devotees of the Royal Craft.

It will be observed that this renowned chapter was instituted before
the Capitular system, as we now have it, was promulgated, and
probably in its archives are to be found the edicts announcing the
changes which modified the work. To the student of Royal Arch
Masonry the annals of this chapter must be a rich mine of
instructive and interesting information.

In this connection, I revert to the meagre published records of the
General Grand Chapter of the United States, and on the first page I
discover that on the 24th of October, 1797, several prominent
companions met in Boston, and proceeded to organize that august
body. St. Andrew's chapter was represented by its leading officers,
of whom Benjamin Hurd, Jr., was then High Priest, he having been
elected in 1791, and held the office for seven years, and he also
having held the office of General Grand King for a long period.
When delegates from St. Andrew's Chapter and King Cyrus
Chapter, at Newburyport, met at the Green Dragon Tavern
Tuesday, March 13th, 1798, and organized the Grand Royal
Chapter of Massachusetts, Companion Hurd was elected the first
Grand High Priest, and was re-elected for three successive years.
These statements show that the General Grand Chapter had a prior
origin to the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, but of only a few
months. The old commonwealth has always been loyal to the
General Grand Body that her devoted Masons assisted in
organizing, and a roll of the officers will reveal that several times
her Grand Chapter has furnished efficient and faithful servants,
among whom was John McClellan, of Boston, who was General
Grand Treasurer from 1865 till his death, September 29th, 1878,
and had been a member of St. Andrew's Chapter from November,

It is doubtless justly claimed that records exist which prove beyond
question that Chapter No. 3, (now Jerusalem Chapter No. 3), of
Philadelphia, is the oldest Royal Arch Chapter in the United States,
and that the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania, was the
first Grand Chapter organized in this country. The minutes of
Royal Arch Lodge, No. 3, as originally designated, are complete
from December 3d, 1767, to the present date, and naturally enough
are regarded as a sacred treasure. This, it will be observed, is a date
anterior to the organization of St. Andrew's Chapter Boston, but
how much earlier Royal Arch Masonry was introduced into
Philadelphia will probably never be known, because the
destruction of the Masonic hall by fire, in the year 1819, caused
great loss to the Masons of Pennsylvania, in the burning of nearly
all their old records.

From this Jerusalem Chapter has grown the fourteen chapters now
in Philadelphia and immediate vicinity, and the 102 chapters in the
State, with an aggregate membership of about 11,000. All the
chapters in Philadelphia are numerically large bodies, and the
mother chapter reports a roll of 400 companions. In addition there
are three Mark Master Mason's lodges in that city, which have a
membership of 2,000.

All through the vicissitudes of nearly a century and a quarter,
Jerusalem Chapter has been conferring the Royal Arch degree, and
it does not appear that any event, however momentous, has
interrupted the regular assemblies of this time-honored
organization. In the Ahiman Rezon (edition 1825), we read: "This
chapter, working under the warrant of No. 3, was reorganized by
and had communion with a military chapter, working under
warrant No. 351, granted by the Grand Lodge of England and its
proceedings were subsequently approved by that honorable body,
as appears from a communication from its Deputy Grand Master
Dermott." How soon thereafter it became independent of English
supervision does not appear.

The annals of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania show that on
November 23d, 1795, the Grand Chapter was opened under the
immediate sanction the Grand Lodge. The Grand Chapter met
under the same auspices until January 5th, 1824, at which time it
became independent, and it is worthy of note that it has never
allied itself to the General Grand Chapter of the United States,
which even then was a powerful body embracing sixteen Grand

Of the early chapters working anterior to the organization of the
Grand Chapter of Connecticut there were six, all represented in the
convention at Hartford, May 17th, 1798, the real date of the
formation of that Grand Body with elected officers. These six were
as follows: Hiram Chapter, No. 1, located at Newtown Franklin
Chapter, No. 2, located at New Haven Washington Chapter, No. 3,
located at Middletown Franklin Chapter, No. 4, located at
Norwich Solomon Chapter, No. 5, located at Derby Vanden
Broeck Chapter, No. 5, located at Colchester.

Authority for these chapters came from New York.
Representatives of these bodies met in Hartford, July 5th, 1796, "to
take into consideration matters relative to said chapters which may
be deemed of expedience or utility," hence that date is usually
given as the date of the organization of the Grand Chapter of
Connecticut. A like convention was held October 20th, 1796, at
New Haven, but no further organization effected. Stephen T.
Hosmer was the first Grand High Priest.

Joseph K. Wheeler, Grand Secretary of Connecticut, is quite
positive that in Hiram Chapter as early as 1791, the degrees of
Mark Master, Master in the Chair, and Most Excellent Master,
were conferred. The ByLaws of that old chapter show "the regular
times of meeting" to have been bi-monthly. In the year 1840,
Hiram Chapter became delinquent, and has since been dropped
from the roll of the Grand Chapter.

The name of Franklin designates two chapters. It was a, common
thing in the early days, for Masons in that jurisdiction to duplicate
names of lodges also.

As a matter of interest to all Royal Arch Masons I give the
following dates of formation of several of the oldest subordinates
and Grand Chapters: Jerusalem Chapter, No. 3, Philadelphia,
anterior to 1758 St. Andrew's Chapter, Boston, August 28th, 1769
Providence Chapter, No. 1, Providence, September 3d, 1793
Hiram Chapter, No. 1, Newtown, Conn., April 6th, 1791 King
Cyrus Chapter, Newburyport, Mass., July 9th, 1790 Grand
Chapter of Pennsylvania, November 23d, 1795 Grand Chapter of
Connecticut, May 17th, 1798 Grand Chapter of Rhode Island,
March 13th, 1797 Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Oct. 24th,
1797 Grand Chapter of New York, March 24th, 1798 General
Grand Chapter of the United States, January 24th, 1798.

To those familiar with the history of Capitular Masonry in the
State of New York, the omission of Ancient Chapter No. 1, in New
York city, will appear singular. The reason will be made obvious.
The date of the origin of the old lodge first working the Royal
Arch degree in the metropolitan city cannot now be ascertained,
but it was most certainly the organization that subsequently
became known as Ancient Chapter, which was enrolled under the
Grand Royal Arch Chapter, August 28th, 1806. The history prior
to 1798 is so mixed with tradition that scarcely anything more can
now be determined save that as early as 1763 the warrant for the
original organization to confer the degrees up to Royal Arch came
from England.

Providence Chapter No. 1, Providence, Rhode Island, has always
held exclusive jurisdiction in that city, and with its seven hundred
members is to-day the largest Chapter in the United States,
numerically more important than several Grand Jurisdictions
which boast their dozen Grand Officers and a representation in the
General Grand Chapter equal with the great States of New York,
Illinois or Massachusetts.
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